St Sisoes the Great (+429 AD) was a solitary monk, pursuing asceticism in the Egyptian desert in a cave sanctified by the prayerful labours of his predecessor, St Anthony the Great (commemorated January 17). For his sixty years of labour in the desert, St Sisoes attained to sublime spiritual purity and he was granted the gift of wonderworking, so that by his prayers he once restored a dead child back to life.
Extremely strict with himself, Abba Sisoes was very merciful and compassionate to others, and he received everyone with love. To those who visited him, the St first of all always taught humility. When one of the monks asked how he might attain to a constant remembrance of God, St Sisoes remarked, “That is no great thing, my son, but it is a great thing to regard yourself as inferior to everyone else. This leads to the acquisition of humility”. Asked by the monks whether one year is sufficient for repentance if a brother sins, Abba Sisoes said, “I trust in the mercy of God that if such a man repents with all his heart, then God will accept his repentance in three days”.
When St Sisoes lay upon his deathbed, the disciples surrounding the Elder saw that his face shone like the sun. They asked the dying man what he saw. Abba Sisoes replied that he saw St Anthony, the prophets, and the apostles. His face increased in brightness, and he spoke with someone. The monks asked, “With whom are you speaking, Father?” He said that angels had come for his soul, and he was entreating them to give him a little more time for repentance. The monks said, “You have no need for repentance, Father”. St Sisoes said with great humility, “I do not think that I have even begun to repent”.
After these words the face of the holy abba shone so brightly that the brethren were not able to look upon him. St Sisoes told them that he saw the Lord Himself. Then there was a flash like lightning, and a fragrant odour, and Abba Sisoes departed to the Heavenly Kingdom.
Feast Day: July 6
Apolytikion (First Tone)
You proved to be a citizen of the desert, an angel in the flesh, and a wonderworker, O Sisoes, our God-bearing Father. By fasting, vigil, and prayer obtained heavenly gifts, and you healed the sick and the souls of them that have recourse to thee with faith. Glory to Him that has given you strength. Glory to him that has crowned you. Glory to Him that works healings for all through you.
Kontakion (Fourth Tone)
In your struggles, you were as an earthly Angel, shining light upon the minds of all the faithful ceaselessly with your divine signs; and for this cause, righteous Sisoes, we honour you faithfully.
Here are some of the wise sayings and illustrious deeds of this great Father of the desert:
St. Sisoes taught the monks: “Regardless in what way temptation comes to man, a man should give himself to the will of God and to recognize that temptation occurred because of his sins. If something good happens, it should be said that it happened according to God’s Providence.”
One monk asked Sisoes: “How can I please God and be saved?” The Saint answered: “If you wish to please God, withdraw from the world, separate yourself from the earth, put aside creation, draw near to the Creator, unite yourself to God with prayers and tears and then you will find rest in this time and in the future.”
Another monk asked Sisoes: “How can I attain humility?” The saint replied: “When a person learns to recognize every man as being better than himself, with that he attains humility.”
Ammon complained to Sisoes that he could not memorize the wise sayings that he read in order to repeat them in conversation with men. The Saint replied to him: “That is not necessary. It is necessary to attain purity of mind and speak from that purity placing your hope in God.”
Another brother asked Abba Sisoes, “I have fallen, Abba; what shall I do?” The elder said to him, “Get up again.” The brother said, “I have gotten up again, but again have I fallen.” The elder said, “Get up again and again.” So the brother asked, “How many times?” The elder replied, “Until you are taken up either in virtue or in sin. For a man presents himself to judgment in that state in which he is found.”
One day a man came wanting to be a monk and he had a son. Sisoes commanded him to throw the son into the river, which he was only just stopped from doing by the brothers who brought the Elder’s counter-command. He went on to become a proficient monk having learned the value of obedience as a means to attaining humility.
Another man from the world came to Sisoes with his son, who died on the way. The father prostrated himself before the Abba, leaving the boy’s corpse there. Thinking the child had merely failed to get up again after the prostration, Sisoes commanded him to arise; which he did, and went out, whole. Sisoes was distressed for he did not intend to raise the dead; he charged everybody to keep silent concerning this matter for as long as he lived.
A brother who had been wronged by another brother came to see Abba Sisoes. He said to him, “My brother has hurt me and I want to avenge myself.” The old man begged him, saying, “No, my child, leave vengeance to God.” The brother said, “I shall not rest until I have avenged myself.” The Elder said, “Brother, let us pray.” Then he stood up and said, “God, we no longer need You to care for us, since we do justice for ourselves.” When he heard these words, the brother prostrated himself before the Elder’s feet and said, “I will no longer seek justice from my brother. Forgive me, Abba.”
Abba Sisoes expressed himself freely one day, saying, ‘Have confidence: for thirty years I have not prayed to God about my faults, but I have made this prayer to him: “Lord Jesus, save me from my tongue,” and until now every day, I fall because of it, and commit sin.’